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Our Views: State texting law limited but it’s still a bad idea for drivers

July 7, 2018

A new Arizona law banning the use of electronic devices for some teen drivers went into effect this week. It has implications for everyone.

The new restriction to the state’s graduated driver’s license program says new drivers can’t use electronic communications while driving with the exception of verbal turn-by-turn directions. Frankly, it’s not a very strong law. It’s enforceable only as a secondary violation, meaning a teen can only be ticketed for it if other offenses are committed first.

It should be strong enough to make every other driver give the matter some attention. Arizona, of course, is one of only two states without so-called texting bans which limit the use of cell phones to hands-free operation.

That doesn’t tell the whole story, since nine cities and two counties in the state have hands-free ordinances for all drivers. This means drivers have to know where it is legal to use a phone while driving and where it is not.

Or, they can just ask themselves the question of where is it safe to use a hand-held phone while driving. The answer is nowhere.

There’s good evidence that distracted drivers have more accidents. When they are focused on a text conversation or even a drive-through taco, drivers are shown to have limited ability to notice what’s happening on the road.

Arizona has a proud if somewhat undeserved reputation for limiting the number of laws that regulate social behavior. That’s one of the reason a state texting law has never passed.

Implicit in the preference for fewer laws is an upgraded notion of personal responsibility. In other words, it shouldn’t take a law for people to do the right thing.

In this case, the right thing is putting down the cellphones. Distracted driving is dangerous for everyone, not just the newbie drivers.

For those not given to this approach, it might be best to know when you’re driving through those nine cities and two counties.

— Today’s News-Herald

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